The one-night stand who got away is back—and expecting…
Security entrepreneur Zachary Gatlin can’t decide whether to kiss her senseless or give her the brush-off, but Sadie Adams insinuates herself into his business and he’s hooked.
Sadie’s on a mission to dig up dirt on Zach and disqualify him from a multimillion-dollar inheritance. Success means she’ll be able to pay for her little sister’s medical bills. But when Zach once again proves irresistible to Sadie, she faces a fateful choice: follow her heart or save her sister. And then there’s the child she’s carrying—Zach’s child…
~~~~ BEHIND THE SCENES ~~~~
~~ musical inspiratiOn ~~
Zachary Gatlin’s theme song: Warriors, Imagine Dragons
Sadie Adams’s theme song: A Year Without Rain, Selena Gomez & the Scene
~~ EXPECTING HIS SECRET HEIR PINTEREST PAGE ~~
With inspirational photos of the characters, setting, and more…
~~ REVIEWS ~~
~~ TEASERS ~~
~~ Chapter 1, Scene 1 ~~
From her crouching vantage point, Sadie Adams sized up the composition before her with an artistic eye.
Wide, straight shoulders of a towering man, silhouetted against the smoking buildings and rubble. A small strip of dead cotton plants in the foreground. The sun lightening the top of his thick head of hair, leaving the rest of him in shadow. Standing in profile, hands on his hips, head hung as if in despair.
As the shutter clicked, she wondered about his story. Had he been an employee of the ruined mill behind him, or was he there to help? As several men approached, he raised his head, giving her a clearer view of his rough-cut features.
I should have known.
Those broad shoulders, clothes that fit a tight, strong body in all the right places—he was the most capable man she’d ever known. The most incredible lover she’d ever had. The one it had almost killed her to walk away from.
Zachary Gatlin was the reason she was back in Black Hills, South Carolina. But he could never know that.
She took a few more pictures, surreptitiously inching in the other direction, as he talked with the men surrounding him. Yet she kept Zachary Gatlin in her line of sight. Five years ago, he had blended in with the crowd. A worker bee. Now, he was clearly in charge, directing those around him with decisive gestures and a firm tone that reached her even though she couldn’t make out the words.
Had he worked his way up into management at the mill? Would that change how he treated her? Would it change how he saw her?
Moving along the edge of the parking lot, she attempted to get closer to the ruined buildings. Her high-quality camera had some amazing close-up capabilities that she was eager to test. The piece of equipment was a luxury she couldn’t afford—but her employer could, and he was pulling out all the stops to ensure she got the information he needed. She should feel dirty for accepting the camera, but it was the one thing—the only thing—she didn’t regret in her current situation.
If Zachary knew the truth, he’d make sure she deeply regretted ever coming back here. He wouldn’t rage or get physical. He wouldn’t need to. That dark stare and hard features would be enough to make his point. At least, that was the Zachary she’d known—or thought she’d known.
Would he be the same now?
Turning to the smoking ruins, she focused on the things she knew. Angle, lighting, depth, perception. Her circumstances had prevented her from pursuing photography at a professional level, even though she’d had a few photographs published, thanks to a friend. But if her life had been different, with fewer obligations, maybe she could have followed her own dreams instead of lying awake at night wondering how her family would all survive.
Lost in her art, she’d almost blocked out her surroundings until a masculine voice spoke near her. “Ma’am?”
For just a moment, her heart jump-started. Had Zach finally spotted her? But she turned to find a generic security guard by her side. “Yes?”
“If you’ll come with me, please?”
Though it was a question, his firm gesture in the direction he wanted her to go brooked no arguments.
After ten steps she had no doubt where he was leading her. Desperate to delay the inevitable, she paused. “Excuse me? Could you explain what happened here?”
Possibly fooled by her innocent expression, the man stopped, too, and cocked his head to the side. “You aren’t from around here, are you?”
She shook her head. “No. I’ve visited before, and really wanted to come back. But I didn’t think I would find the quiet place I remembered in such an uproar.”
That was the truth. The single hotel in the area had been booked full. Sadie had managed to get the last room in the last B and B with an opening. From the types of people she saw coming and going, most of the influx consisted of firefighters and construction crews. From the looks of the half-full parking lot, quite a few of those guys were out here today.
“I kinda guessed, based on the accent,” he said with a smile.
Yep. No matter how she tried to tame it, her Texas breeding colored her every word.
The guard went on, “Well, the admin building on this side of the plant had a bomb go off in it.”
Sadie made herself look surprised, even though she’d picked up this tidbit of information around town already. “Really? Who would want to do that? This is the main source of employment for the town, if I remember right.”
“It sure is,” the man said, shaking his head. “They say they have a suspect in custody but haven’t released any names yet.” He stared up at the building for a moment, looking confused. “I have no idea why someone would want to ruin the mill, but after all the bad stuff that’s happened around here in the last year—”
“Steve,” Zach barked from over a dozen feet away.
“Oops. Better get movin’,” the guard said.
Each step felt like a final walk down death row, but Sadie forced herself to move. After all, making contact with Zach was the reason she was here. She needed to spend as much time with him as possible—and she hoped their previous one-night stand might give her a bit of an in, even if the fact that she’d disappeared after it wouldn’t make it a positive in.
Zach still had a group of workers around him who parted as she drew near. She expected them to skedaddle now that the boss had new business, but no. Not a single one moved away.
Her petite five-foot-five stature had been the bane of her existence ever since she’d realized she wouldn’t be growing anymore, and being surrounded by a bunch of six-foot-tall men did not set her at ease. She felt like David approaching Goliath against his will.
Not that she had any sort of righteousness on her side.
There was only a moment to study Zach up close. His thick jet hair was a little longer than it had been the last time she’d seen him. Remembering that night long ago, she couldn’t help the itch to bury her fingers in those silky strands again. Or to run her fingertips over the weary lines of his chiseled features until the tension melted away.
Her sensual memories were dimmed by the current hard look on his face. There was no glimmer of recognition or softening as she stood before him, even though she could remember every detail of the body that now towered over her. No smile of welcome softened his sculpted lips as he asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m just taking some pictures,” she said quietly, lifting the camera still in her hand.
If anything, his dark eyes hardened more. “On private property.”
She glanced around, uncomfortable under the stares of the other men. “This is…was a business, right? There aren’t any signs posted about private property or trespassing.”
“That’s because they were all blown down by the bomb.”
Really? She wanted to challenge him, push past that stony facade to find out if he was simply making that up. Was he trying to punish her for walking away? Or did he really not recognize her? Had she been that unmemorable? The thought made her slightly ill.
She settled for a simple, “Sorry, I didn’t realize.”
Zach stared her down. What would he do next? She had a feeling this wasn’t going to end as a friendly little chat. Her cheeks started to burn. Inwardly cursing her fair skin, she tilted her chin up to counteract the feeling of inadequacy. So what if he didn’t remember her…she’d still find a way to get what she needed.
But she couldn’t force her gaze back up to his.
“As you can see, this is still an active fire zone, and we’ve got a great deal to investigate before we know how safe it is.”
She smirked at the lame excuse. “I wasn’t anywhere near the fire. I was in the parking lot with a bunch of other people.”
The crowd around her shifted, as if uncomfortable with her spark of courage. But Zach didn’t back down. “Do you have a press pass?”
“A press pass,” he said, enunciating each word with careful control. “Do you have permission to be taking photos of the scene?”
She seriously wanted to roll her eyes at his show of dominance but held herself in check. “No.”
“Steve, please escort this lady back to her car.”
Startled, she snapped her gaze up to meet his eyes once more. Surely he wasn’t throwing her off the property?
He stepped closer, close enough for her to catch the scent she’d missed all too often, mixed with perspiration from his work despite the cool October air. His fingers—the same ones that had explored her body that long-ago night—caught her chin, tilting it up just a touch more until it was uncomfortable. Then she had no choice but to meet his gaze, despite their height difference. Her heart thumped hard, though she didn’t know if it was from his nearness or fear.
“I suggest you stay away from where you don’t belong.”
As the guard escorted her back to her car, she had only one thought.
Guess he does remember me after all…